If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
Won’t somebody think of the children?! Make no mistake, for the youth of today times are incredibly tough. Especially for young musicians, those who choose to try and make a living out of it, will more often than not fail. Bad enough before you even get to considering the consequences of trying.
By choosing to pursue music, you put education, and in a way life itself, on hold. You find a job to pay for a tour, you loose a job by going on tour, and you start all over again. Your CV becomes a series of unrelated events, punctuated by gaps. Gaps you can only explain by admitting you’re in a band who tour, and as such, are likely to tour again: not what your employer wants to hear.
The clamp down on employment benefits arguably hits the young creatives more than any other social group, “so you’re trying to claim benefits, but you’ve got a record deal? Oh no you can’t have any money for food if you’re a rockstar.” With rising rent in our uncapped property market you’re forced further out and further into debt. It can be undeniably hopeless.
Despite all that people still keep doing it, still standing on a stage and performing, still writing records, going on tour and living the dream. For all the trouble it brings, performing is a high like no other, and in our current culture of hopelessness it’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is arguably the oncoming train.
EVANS THE DEATH – EXPECT DELAYS
People who think music should all be sunshine, good-times, moonlight and boogy look away now, because on their second album Expect Delays, Evans The Death offer no such good times, and barely a ray of sunshine. It’s a thoroughly down beat record, the title of the albums opening track, Intrinsic Grey, is an excellent summary of the all encompassing melancholia that drips from every groove of this record. The overriding gloom ridden outlook it summed up by guitarist and for the most part songwriter Dan Moss, who sums up the albums themes as “being in London and feeling hopeless and a bit lost. Not having any money, relationships falling apart, things just not connecting or going anywhere and getting absolutely wasted all the time.”
Despite this downbeat outlook, the record marks a huge step forward for the band. Whilst their debut album bristled with the kind of angst and anger you’d expect from a band still in their teenage years, here they’ve made a more nuanced record, one that feels more genuine. If on their debut they scratched the surface of their inner monologue, here they delve deep into the inner workings of what it is to be young and lost and for the most part, drunk. It’s underpinned by an unsettling feeling of disarray and hopelessness, because that’s how life is for young people living on the poverty line under our wonderful coalition government. It’s probably the most honest record you’ll hear all year.
Their debut album was released when the band were just finishing school, they decided to forego university and concentrate on making a career out of music. Despite the relative acclaim bestowed upon their self-titled debut, the sales figures didn’t follow, where they had hoped to soar and become stars they found themselves firmly tethered to the ground. They floated aimlessly through jobs, collecting an employment history littered with gaps. A subject they cover on one of the albums most memorable moments Idiot Button. Starting off life with a melodic strummed acoustic and a gentle meandering slide guitar, the opening line “I wake up still drunk, covered in bank statements” creates a troubled atmosphere, but it’s the songs central line “I can’t explain these gaps in my employment history, I’m an idiot for trying” that’s truly crushing, lamenting how pursuing your dreams can end up in the horror of reality. It’s a claustrophobic and unsettling listen, and a powerful piece of writing as well.
It’s a mood that’s repeated elsewhere. On the albums opening blast, and blast is the right word for such a ferocious explosion of squalling guitars, pounding drums and thrillingly unhinged noise, singer Katherine Whitaker yelps “I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what I need, but my shoes make me bleed so I don’t go anywhere.” Whilst on The Smithsian jangle of Bad Years she notes “I guess we’re used to disappointment now, I’ll run you a drink for a change.” With it’s jaunty feel, the heart-wrenching contrast between music and lyrics is confirmed as she sings “I just can’t stop laughing, I know what’s going to happen, I’ve had a bad year” it’s the same misery meets the dancefloor Morrisey and co perfected in the 80’s, given a modern make-over.
Miraculously it just gets darker and more crushing from there – Enabler is a blast of pure Sonic Youth distortion carried along by the repeated line “Do you love me enough to be my enabler?”, Sledgehammer showcases Katherine’s impressive range, her vocal swooping effortless from high to low and back again as she sings of a toxic relationship “you’re having fun, but when that’s done, I’ll be there to bring you down” whilst Terrfied possesses hints of both My Bloody Valentine and Garbage as the vocal sits back in the mix, engulfed in sound. It’s a deeply claustrophobic listening experience.
Clean Up is an unhinged run away train of a punk song, recalling Idlewild at their most spiky, before giving way to an utterly gorgeous country guitar lick, as Katherine initially pleads “if you don’t forgive me, I’ll feel bad” and latterly “if you don’t forgive me, I’ll give up” it’s a plea for help as you try and cling on to the one thing that makes it worthwhile.
With songwriting duties divided between both Dan and his brother Olly it’s an eclectic sonic mix: sometimes it falls a little flat, and it’s perhaps 10 minutes too long. Shanty is fairly forgettable whilst the waltzing Just 60,000 More Days ‘Til I Die, verges a little close to acoustic troubadour territory, but for the most part it’s a fantastic listen.
The title track, Expect Delays, may start of life sounding a bit like the intro to a terrible chat show, but once it hits full steam it’s a wonderful thing! The music floats in and out, a jaunty blast of organ here, a meandering guitar solo there, it recalls the likes of Stereolab or Broadcast as it tells a tale of living on the breadline, stories of arguments with bank managers, commuting (“so young, so brave, someone threw themselves onto the track again, I really should learn to drive but I just don’t trust myself with the lives of others”) and going to bed early because the electricity is out and there’s nothing left to do. It’d be harrowing if it wasn’t so common place.
Best of all is Don’t Laugh At My Angry Face, a song that looks alcoholism and the bitter end of a doomed relationship straight in the face. Musically it’s underpinned by a doomy distorted organ and blasts of scuzzy guitar. The opening line sets the scene “when I see the state you’re in, I know I don’t want you to drink, I’m leaving the second I know you’re not dead.” In the songs middle section a frankly ludicrous guitar solo bursts out, it’s languid, drawn out, covered in screeching distortion and preposterously bombastic, it’s also utterly wonderful! The songs meanders and winds, from moments of shrieking noise and others of relative calm, before the crushing line “if you look up to me, you must have such low self-esteem, passed out next to the bed, you got so close.” It’s disturbing, dark and frankly fantastic!
It’s an album that doesn’t let up, you spend the whole album waiting for a slither of hope, a ray of sunshine and a sign that everything might be ok in the end, it never comes. It’s an album that engulfs you, not a casual listen, not always an enjoyable one, but one with an honesty that’s undeniable. It feels like a giant leap forward and a record, that could be greatly important to a great number of people.